Delta Air Lines opened the biennial Farnborough Air Show in the U.K. with its first order for new Boeing aircraft in more than a decade.
The Atlanta-based carrier on Monday committed to up to 130 737-10s, including 100 firm and 30 options, at the air show near London. The planes will replace 737-800s and support growth in Delta’s fleet. The first aircraft will arrive in 2025.
Delta Senior Vice President of Fleet and Tech Ops Supply Chain Mahendra Nair said it selected the Max for its commonality with the existing 737s in the airline’s fleet, as well as its improved fuel efficiency. The Max 10 will burn about 20 percent less fuel than older models. Delta flew 236 737s at the end of June, its latest fleet plan shows.
The airline’s last new Boeing order was for 100 737-900ERs in 2011. The carrier exercised several options for the jet in 2015 and 2017. But it apparently has found the right terms it was looking for.
“Like they say, a good thing is worth waiting for and this was worth waiting for,” Boeing Senior Vice President of Commercial Sales & Marketing Ihssane Mounir said at the show. He thanked Delta for its order, which was widely expected.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian said on July 13 that the carrier had an “opportunity” for a large narrowbody aircraft that would arrive in the next 3-5 years. He added that it was in talks with both Airbus and Boeing but did not name the Max 10 specifically. Last September, Bastian told pilots that there was “certainly a place” for the plane in its fleet.
The order comes amid uncertainty for Boeing around both the Max 7 and 10. An exemption from a federal requirement for new cockpit safety features, including the Engine Indicating and Crew Alerting System, or EICAS, expires at the end of the year. If the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t sign off on the Maxes by then, Boeing will either need to get an extension from Congress or undergo a major redo of the flight deck; the latter would threaten both types’ economics and commonality with other 737 models.
“Right now, I’m focused on the primary path, which is get the airplane certified,” Boeing Commercial CEO Stan Deal said of the Max 10 certification in London on Sunday. His comments followed a report in Aviation Week earlier in July that Boeing could cancel the plane if it is not certified by the end of the year.
Asked about the certification risk, Nair said: “If there’s a change to the EICAS, we’d have to think about where we are … I would urge everyone — Congress, the FAA — that that commonality is the bellwether for us.”
Whether Congress would approve an extension of Boeing’s exemption for the Max is unknown. Legislators have repeatedly expressed strong dissatisfaction with Boeing following the two fatal crashes of the 737 Max in 2018 and 2019 that resulted in the type’s nearly two-year grounding. On the flip side, the airframer is the largest U.S. exporter and the loss of the Max 10 — with hundreds of orders from airlines round the world, including International Airlines Group and United Airlines — would be a blow for U.S. trade.
“We’re in the midst of that with the FAA now doing the [certification] work on the -10,” Deal said. “If it takes a little more time, we’re going to go back to Congress and ask for more time.”
Delta, for the time being, looks forward to receiving its first Max 10 in three years. Current plans call for the aircraft to primarily fly from its Minneapolis-St. Paul, Salt Lake City, and Seattle-Tacoma hubs, and complement its existing fleet of Airbus A321neos, said Nair. He added that the aircraft will have 29 percent “premium seats” — or roughly 53 seats based on the 182 planned on the aircraft.